A prison dog training program with a very real human element to it
In January 2016, the Pawsitive Direction Program was founded by Loxahatchee Animal Rescue Community in conjunction with Denise Rock of Rock Legal Services. In early 2017, Denise moved on to grow her own nonprofit organization which focuses on inmate rights. We will always be thankful for the help she provided in getting the PDP started and for her monthly dog food donation. The PDP has remained LARC’s heart project and we are so proud of all our team has accomplished.
The Pawsitive Direction Program is designed to not only assist shelter dogs, but the handlers who join our team, as well. We want our handlers to learn socialization, responsibilty, teamwork, and communication skills in addition to learning dog training skills. Yes, thanks to the Loxahatchee Animal Rescue Community VP/Professional Dog Trainer/PDP Training Director, Dana Ortiz, our handlers become dog trainers and can utilize those skills to start their own dog training businesses, join existing dog training companies, work at shelters, etc. Our handlers know we want the absolute best for them. We support and encourage them throughout their time in the program in an effort to make sure they get the most out of the experience and succeed in their lives when they’re released. We couldn’t do what we do without our handlers. It is because of them that we’ve been able to save and find forever homes for as many dogs as we have since January 2016.
Each Pawsitive Direction Program session is typically 12 weeks and graduates do so fully obedience trained, AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) ready, and/or Bachelor’s/Mater’s/PhD in Canine Life and Social Skills (CLASS) ready. Our handlers also really enjoy teaching their dogs fun tricks. We’ve adopted 2 PDP dogs to veterans and 3 to people affected by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy with 1 of those dogs trained specifically in PTSD assistance. Our handlers take their training responsibilities, in any form, seriously and work hard to prepare their dogs for forever homes and whatever additional purposes they may serve.
In the beginning of 2019, a Criminal Justice Professor and her students from a local college had the opportunity to see just how special the PDP is during a tour of the work camp. While there, the visitors listened to a Pawsitive Direction Program handler tell his story. Our handler made such an impact on the visitors that the Professor decided to change the topic of her Doctoral Dissertation from the original topic to the PDP and inmate recidivism. During the research period, she and her students will also be working with our handlers on interviewing skills and resume building. This is a great opportunity for the PDP team as a whole and we’re so excited.
Since the inception of the Pawsitive Direction Program, we have worked with multiple other rescues and shelter type organizations. Their dogs have joined the PDP with the hopes that the training added to their “adoption resumes,” and extra exposure the PDP provides, will help find them forever homes. This type of partnership has proven to be successful and we’re happy to be able to provide this opportunity to fellow rescues and shelters.
The Pawsitive Direction Program’s most recent partnership was formed in November 2019 with Villalobos Rescue Center (Pit Bulls and Parolees tv show) when we put 4 VRC dogs into the 13th session of the program. This partnership has been yet another amazing opportunity for our organization. We are honored to partner with a rescue that has inspired us, through their work and dedication to the dogs and people who join their organization, since well before LARC and the PDP were even possibilities and we look forward to the future of this partnership.
We are so thankful for those who have supported the Pawsitive Direction Program and are excited to see our heart project continue to grow and change lives.